Shedrick Mitchell – What Do You Say?

This came out already last September, but somehow got lost in the shuffle. But I always came back to Shedrick’s latest album because it has so many different aspects to offer. In the past, Shedrick has performed and recorded with Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Maxwell, Roberta Flack, Dianne Reeves, Christian McBride, Kenny Garrett, Robin McKelle, Grégoire Maret, and so many more. The last time I saw him perform live was at Winter Jazzfest in New York a few years ago in a rousing performance with guest singer Jean Baylor.

Shedrick Mitchell "What Do You Say?"

His latest project is another Covid-related work, since he fell ill back in the spring of 2020 and thankfully got past the illness without negative effects and soon started to work on several albums. “What Do You Say?” starts off with “The Truth, The Way, The Light” and references the bible and Shedrick’s faith. It’s a pretty sumptuous opening with great sax work by up-and-coming Immanuel Wilkins who just released his second Blue Note album. I really dig the variety on offer here since the second track veers toward Shedrick’s experiences with soulful vocalists. The title track is a duet by American Idol finalist Aaron Marcellus and Ayana George, who sings with John Legend, among many others, and has beautiful string arrangements by Geoffrey Keezer. The track is a beautiful soul piece that, even though it’s moderate and soft, bursts with a lot of energy.

Guitarist Nir Felder plays some mean guitar on the hypnotic “Memories” which works very well due to some layered vocal parts, reminding me of some Metheny/Mays tunes from yesteryear. We also get a straight ahead jazz tune with some energized playing from Nir and Immanuel on “E.A.D.B.” with Shedrick also shining as a brilliant pianist. Sounds like some hot stuff from a Blue Note recording of the 60s. I really dig the wonderful arrangement of “The Don Medley”, where Shedrick puts together three tunes by Maxwell (“Whenever, Wherever, Whatever”), Michael McDonald (“On My Own”, with Patti LaBelle), and Stevie Wonder (“Overjoyed”). Aaron Marcellus is the star here, nailing all three tracks with elegance, style, and a lot of power. We need to hear more of him. Great strings here, too. And real strings!

More of those can be heard on the Gospel-tinged “Faith”, where Aaron is showing another side of his percolating voice. Rousing. Thrilling. Great sax and guitar work again. From Gospel to Black Lives Matter with a sermon by emcee Oswald Benjamin celebrating black excellence and pride, to African influences on “Nowhere To Run”. It’s not as if Shedrick is showing off his various musical hats, but it’s rather a showcase of a consummate artist and what he’s about. “I have so many things to ‘say,’ and so many things that I have to offer. So, it’s a rebirth of me and my mindset as an artist and as a leader”, says Shedrick in the notes to the album’s release. Glad we are a part of this rebirth.

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